Articulate Africa Book Fair 2017: an interview with Darryl David

  • 0

Darryl David chats to Naomi Meyer about Durban and the literary scene – locally and internationally.

Darryl David (photo: Jan van der Merwe)

Hi Darryl! Why are all eyes of the international literary world on Durban at the moment?

Hi Naomi. Well, all eyes are on Durban because of our application for Unesco City of Literature. Almost a month after we put a full stop behind the Articulate Africa Book Fair (on the weekend of 30 September), Unesco will announce the names of the successful bid cities. So in many ways Articulate Africa is the litmus test for the city to see if we possess the organisational nous to host an international book festival.

And how about the eyes of the South African literary world? What is happening in Durban on that last weekend in September?

The literary festival is part of the Essence Festival, a partnership between the City of Durban and the City of New Orleans. Before this the Essence brand was unknown to me. But go and google them – they are among the largest festivals in the world. It has a 20-year track record and attracts close on 600 000 festivalgoers. That is huge in anyone’s language. The festival tries to be everything to everyone. Thus there is a large music concert. A book festival. An art festival. There is even a property summit. Famous religious and political figures like TD Jakes will be part of a gospel concert. Last year I believe the Rev Al Sharpeton, the man who gave that great eulogy at Michael Jackson’s funeral, was there. Give Durban credit, they know how to dream big.

I always used to joke with Ashwin Desai that if we got this far in our Unesco bid, he would have the honour of opening the festival. At the ICC. Little did I realise that I would actually get the chance to curate Articulate Africa at the Durban ICC! The greatest convention centre on the African continent for something like the last 15 years. Ashwin Desai. A man whom Prof Makgoba ruined. A man whom he barred from speaking at UKZN’s Time of the Writer. That same man has risen like the proverbial Phoenix. Over 12 books. You can’t keep a good man down. Undoubtedly the most entertaining writer-speaker in South Africa.

Greg Marinovich, Sifiso Mzobe and Ronnie Govender

There will also be people like Fred Khumalo. I prescribed his Dancing the Death Drill even before it was in book form. I tip it to win next year’s Sunday Times Fiction Prize. There will also be other people who got me to where I am today. Like former judge Chris Nicholson, who used to take me to all the cheap bunny chow restaurants in Durban. He, together with Ashwin, and Betty Govinden, taught me to see Durban through new eyes.

And then the Afrikaans writers. Like Etienne van Heerden. At the Adam Small Festival I said LitNet make me look good. People like Deon Meyer. People who believe in what I do. Mind you, Durban librarians did not know many Afrikaans writers. But they asked for Deon Meyer! Clinton du Plessis. And Diana Ferrus. Big stage presence. Besides Breyten Breytenbach, Clinton is probably my second favourite. All the writers – I cherry-pick.

Clinton du Plessis, Christopher Merrill and Fred Khumalo

They say a bookshelf is a taxonomy of the owner’s mind. My book festivals are a taxonomy of my mind. Take the first of our international authors, Christopher Merrill. Look at what people are saying about his book – pure poetry! In April 2012 he was appointed by then President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities. And according to Luis Alberto Urrea: “Christopher Merrill is a national treasure, both as a writer and a global warrior for literature and witness. In a fine career of making exquisite books, Self-Portrait with Dogwood [the book Merrill will speak on at Articulate Africa] might be his most moving. Beauty rises from every page … A quiet classic.” And Eliot Weinberger, on that same book: “An arboreal memoir, an autobiographical dendrology: Merrill, like the dogwood seeds and seedlings, roams the planet, appearing or pausing at unexpected moments in history. The migrant trees sink their roots in various foreign soils; the man, though wandering – even in zones of war – remains rooted in the humus of poetry.”

Andrew Harding, the second international writer I want to profile, has been a foreign correspondent since 1991, living in Moscow, Tbilisi, Nairobi, Singapore, Bangkok and Johannesburg. His reporting for BBC News has won him many awards, including a US Emmy. This is what some literary luminaries have said about The Mayor of Mogadishu, Harding’s first book: “I can’t recommend this book enough. Written by one of the best foreign correspondents of the past 25 years. An exceptional literary achievement” (Eusebius McKaiser, Radio 702, South Africa). And: “Africa can be explained in dry prose, in figures, in newspaper reports; or it can be explained, as Andrew Harding does in this book, through an astonishing personal story, vivid and utterly memorable. This is a triumph of a book: surprising, informative, and humane" (author Alexander McCall Smith).

And lastly, a star on the rise: Winnie M Li, an author and activist around the issue of sexual assault. Her debut novel, Dark chapter, was published in June 2017 in the UK. Partly inspired by her own assault, it explores a rape from the perspective of both victim and perpetrator. The book is currently shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, and will be published in more than nine languages worldwide. The Guardian describes it thus: ‘A powerful debut novel … A defiant re-telling of personal trauma … A tense, dramatic reading experience … Conveyed with skill and emotional force.” 

I reckon this book will go far.

These are just some of the writers that spring to mind. But I have gone on record as saying this will be the book festival of 2017. Not only because of writers like these, but because of the almost 80 writers on the programme. And I did not even get to the youngest writer on the African continent who will be at the festival.

When and where will this festival take place?

29 September to 1 October, at the Durban ICC. TICKETS ARE FREE. The City of Durban must be commended for opening this festival to the people of Durban.

Which other festivals can we look forward to this year?

Well, I will close the year off in style: 10 years for Booktown Richmond. I didn’t get to this point sommer so! It has been a 10-year journey. And BookBedonnerd still remains my most special festival. Getting Unesco status for Durban might top it. But in terms of difficulty, creating a Booktown in the middle of nowhere, when I was a nobody, is in my humble estimation far more difficult than creating a Unesco City of Literature in a monied metro with millions of people to draw from as potential visitors to a book festival. And every person I deal with in Durban – from your newspaper editor to your travel agent – all remark: “We just love BookBedonnerd!”

Press release

A decade ago you could count the literary festivals in South Africa on one hand. But in the last decade there has been an explosion of literary festivals in every corner of the country. So the public could be forgiven for thinking “Just another book festival”. But this year’s Articulate Africa Book Fair at the Durban ICC is being seen as a pilot run for the holy grail of literature: the title of UNESCO CITY OF LITERATURE. Only 20 countries over the last decade have been accorded this honour. If Durban’s bid is successful the city will become the first city on the African continent to achieve this. So the eyes of the world are on Durban. Firstly to judge just how articulate this eastern corner of Africa is. And secondly to see whether the city has the organisational nous to stage a truly international literary festival. On the first point, Durban has an undeniable strength. As a melting pot of cultures, the city is not only known as the “Kingdom of the Zulu”, but is also known as “Little India”. Nowhere in the world, besides India, will you find so many Indians as in Durban.

Deon Meyer, Diana Ferrus and Masande Ntshanga

The line-up for the 2nd chapter of Articulate Africa reflects the rich diversity of voices. To borrow the title of Durban writer Deepak Panday’s book, the “Kings of Durban” at this year’s festival are: two Sunday Times Prize-winners in Masande Ntshanga (The Reactive) and Sifiso Mzobe (Young Blood). The latter also won the Wole Soyinka Prize, the Herman Charles Bosman Award and the SALA award for a first-time published author. Added to this, Durban has not seen so many Afrikaans writers in almost a decade: Etienne van Heerden, considered to be the greatest Afrikaans novelist of his generation; new kid on the block HemelBesem (what a stage name!); and Deon Meyer, probably among the top crime writers in the world. Then there is Greg Marinovich, this year’s Alan Paton Prize-winner for his book on Marikana. And then some more in such prize-winning authors as Kobus Moolman, Carol Mashigo, Chris Mann, Ronnie Govender, Gcina Mhlophe, Fred Khumalo, coupled with literati of the calibre of Jonathan Jansen, Chris Nicholson, Ashwin Desai, Bongani Madondo and many more. Almost 80 in total.

Ashwin Desai, Andrew Harding and Winnnie M Li

But no festival can afford to be insular. While we want to show the world how articulate Africa is, we want to be additionally invigorated by voices from distant shores.

Leading the international brigade is Chris Merrill. Let me share what critics have had to say about Merrill, Director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, a man who has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries and who in April 2012 was appointed by then President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities. According to Luis Alberto Urrea: Christopher Merrill is a national treasure, both as a writer and a global warrior for literature and witness. In a fine career of making exquisite books, Self-Portrait with Dogwood [the book Merrill will speak on at Articulate Africa – DD] might be his most moving. Beauty rises from every page … A quiet classic.” And Eliot Weinberger, on the same book: “An arboreal memoir, an autobiographical dendrology: Merrill, like the dogwood seeds and seedlings, roams the planet, appearing or pausing at unexpected moments in history. The migrant trees sink their roots in various foreign soils; the man, though wandering – even in zones of war – remains rooted in the humus of poetry.”

Andrew Harding, the second international writer we want to profile, has been a foreign correspondent since 1991, living in Moscow, Tbilisi, Nairobi, Singapore, Bangkok and Johannesburg. His reporting for BBC News has won him many awards, including a US Emmy. This is what some literary luminaries have said about The Mayor of Mogadishu, Harding’s first book. “I can’t recommend this book enough. Written by one of the best foreign correspondents of the past 25 years. An exceptional literary achievement” (Eusebius McKaiser, Radio 702, South Africa). “Africa can be explained in dry prose, in figures, in newspaper reports; or it can be explained, as Andrew Harding does in this book, through an astonishing personal story, vivid and utterly memorable. This is a triumph of a book: surprising, informative, and humane" (Alexander McCall Smith –author).

Gcina Mhlope, Jonathan Jansen and Etienne van Heerden

And lastly (due to space constraints only) a star on the rise: Winnie M Li, an author and activist around the issue of sexual assault. Her debut novel, Dark chapter, was published in June 2017 in the UK. Partly inspired by her own assault, it explores a rape from the perspective of both victim and perpetrator. The book is currently shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, and will be published in more than nine languages worldwide. The Guardian describes it thus: “A powerful debut novel … A defiant re-telling of personal trauma … A tense, dramatic reading experience … Conveyed with skill and emotional force.”

These are just some of the highlights of the upcoming Articulate Africa Book Fair at the Durban ICC from 29 September to 1 October.

ALL TALKS ARE FREE.

It promises to be the best literary festival of 2017. We hope to see book lovers like letters on a page at this year’s Articulate Africa Book Fair.

  • Darryl Earl David was the former Head of Afrikaans at UKZN, Pietermaritzburg campus, and now Head of English on the same campus. He is the founder of Booktown Richmond in the Karoo, the most experienced curator of literary festivals in South Africa and the curator of this year’s Articulate Africa. Most importantly he is Interim Director of Durban’s bid for Unesco City of Literature.
  • Photos: supplied

Programme

Friday, 29 September 2017

Time

Delivered by

Item

09h00

OPEN

09h00

Ashwin Desai

Official Opening Address

09H30

Fikile Hlatshwayo

Blacks do Caravan

10h00

Bongani Madondo

Sigh the beloved country

10h30

Kalim Rajab

Memory against forgetting: A tribute to Ranjit Kally

11h00

Etienne van Heerden

Die Wêreld van Charlie Oeng

11h30

Penny Siopis and Tengiwe Nkosi

Contemporary Art in the Global Context

12h00

BREAK

13h00

Fiona Khan; Christy Peacock; Vanessa Tedder

Flights of Fancy

13h30

Winnie M Li (UK)

Dark Chapter

14h00

Chris Abani (USA)

The Face: Cartography of the Void

14h30

Paula Morris (NZ), Betty Govinden, Sylvia Garib, ZP Dala

The Pearl within the Oyster

15h00

Clinton du Plessis

Book launch: Aantekeninge teen die skemeruur

15h30

Rajendra Chetty

Book launch: At the edge: The writings of Ronnie Govender

16h00

Muntu Nxumalo and Bongani Ngqulunga

Voices of Change (facilitated by Scott Couper)

16h30

Deon Meyer

Fear, Fury and Fever

17h00

Chris Mann

Poetry in Motion

  CLOSE

Saturday, 30 September

Time

Delivered by

Item

09h00

OPEN

09h00

Sifiso Mzobe

Young blood

09h30

Vuyo Landa, Nolwazi Khuzwayo, Zama Mtshali-Dlamini, Dudu Busani-Dube

Inspiring Women

10h00

Christopher Merrill (USA)

Self-Portrait with Dogwood

10h30

Deepak Panday

Kings of Durban

11h00

Catherine Chidgey (NZ)

The Wish Child

11h30

Fred Khumalo

Dancing the Death Drill

12h00

BREAK

13h00

Philani Dladla

The Pavement Bookworm (facilitated BP Singh)

13h30

Gcina Mhlope

Fabula rasa

14h00

Karina Brink

The Fifth Mrs Brink

14h30

Ronnie Govender and Lindy Stiebel

Tribute to Lewis Nkosi

15h00

Andrew Harding (UK) and Kalim Rajab

The Mayor of Mogadishu / Harry Oppenheimer: Contradictions and controversy

15h30

Donvé Lee and Bongani Madondo

 If music be the food of love … Brenda Fassie and Syd Kitchen

16h00

Colleen Higgs and Melinda Ferguson

If you can dream it, you can do it (Publishers)

16h30

Chris Nicholson

The jury is out

17h00

Jonathan Jansen

Song for Sarah – tribute to mother

17h30

CLOSE

Sunday, 1 October

Time

Delivered by

Item

09h00

OPEN

09h00

Mathabo Rachel Kunene

The Legacy of Mazisi Kunene

09h30

Mike Lowry

All creatures great and small

10h00

Paula Morris (NZ); Aoife Lennon-Ritchie and Isobel Dixon (UK)

Literary Agents

10h30

Lindiwe Hani and Melinda Ferguson

Being Chris Hani's daughter

11h00

Lindiwe Nyathikazi, Anjekho Mkhize; Liziwe Bentswana;

Women are doing it for themselves

11h30

Mohale Mashigo

The Yearning

12h00

BREAK

13h00

Sara-Jane King and Barbara Boswell

Questions of Identity

13h30

Ashwin Desai

Reverse Sweep – The Story of Cricket in Post-Apartheid SA

14h00

Chris Merrill; Isobel Dixon ; Melinda Ferguson; Etienne van Heerden

The fine line between editing and re-writing. Who is really the author? (Facilitated by Darryl David)

14h30

Luthando Lucas and Irene Fischer

Life's a journey

15h00

Diana Ferrus

Saartjie Baartman – A tribute

15h30

Masande Ntshanga

The Reactive

16h00

Chris Abani (USA)

The secret history of Las Vegas

16h30

Greg Marinovich

Skype interview from USA – Marikana

17h00

Kyle Allan, Dime Maziba, Isobel Dixon, Chris Abani, Mkonto Dube plus many more

Pecha Kucha – 30 poems in 30 minutes

17h30

CLOSE

  • 0

Reageer

Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie. Kommentaar is onderhewig aan moderering.


 

Top